Photos: Sami Disu
New York —On Saturday, May 29 activists (like Tanesha Grant shown speaking above) family members of victims of police violence led around 100 marchers through East New York and Brownsville, beginning with a stop at the location where Delrawn Small was killed by NYPD officer Wayne Isaacs in 2016.
Building on the momentum generated at last week’s march, organized by Communities United for Police Reform, family members of victims of NYPD violence demanded accountability for their loved ones, and that the mayor and City Council defund the NYPD.
Small’s brother, Victor Dempsey, called for Mayor DeBlasio to stop holding up the disciplinary hearings against Isaacs. Also speaking was Donna Heyward, whose son Nicholas Heyward Jr. was killed by housing officer Brian George in 1994, along with representatives from the diverse groups organizing under the banner of the Defund NYPD Coalition.
Coalition organizations participating in the march included Black Trans Nation, Black Women’s March, Local 100 Fightback, Moms United for Black Lives, MORE – UFT, North Bronx Racial Justice, NYC Democratic Socialists of America, NYC Fight for Our Lives Coalition, Parents Supporting Parents New York, Public Sector Workers Unite, Rank and File Action, Riders for Black Lives, and Socialist Alternative.
On July 4, 2016, 37-year-old Delrawn Small was shot and killed by NYPD Officer Wayne Isaacs. Isaacs, who is still employed by the NYPD, killed Delrawn in front of his loved ones, including his four-month-old baby, 14-year-old stepdaughter, and girlfriend. Security footage showed that Isaacs shot Delrawn Small, who was unarmed, within seconds and without provocation. After shooting Small, Isaacs left him to bleed to death on the ground, offering no emergency aid and never even communicating that he had shot someone in his 911 call.
In October of 2020, the NYPD served disciplinary charges on Isaacs that were substantiated by the CCRB, but a discipline trial for Wayne Isaacs has not yet been scheduled.
In 1994, 13-year-old Nicholas Heyward Jr. was killed by housing officer Brian George in Brooklyn. Nicholas was playing cops and robbers with his friends in a stairwell of Gowanus Houses, where he lived, when he was killed by George. According to court testimony Nicholas had dropped his small Western-style popgun with a long orange tip when he was shot in the stomach by George. After Nicholas’ death, his father, Nicholas Heyward Sr., became well known for his community activism, founding the non-profit organization Parents Against Police Brutality and the Nicholas Naquan Heyward Jr. Memorial Foundation.
Victor Dempsey, brother of Delrawn Small: Mayor DeBlasio can act like he didn’t see the video of my brother’s murder, but he has all the power in the world to fire Wayne Isaacs,” said Dempsey. “We’re asking DeBlasio to get out of the way and let the disciplinary hearing take its course. Right now, my family is fighting, tooth-and-nail, after CCRB substantiated charges, saying Wayne Isaacs murdered my brother unjustly and he does not belong on the force. Why would the mayor get in the way of that? He protects himself. So, who is protecting us?’
“The last words that came out of my boy’s mouth: ‘We’re only playing.’ And they still shot him,” said Heyward. ” A year before that, they pulled him over, arrested him, and took him to the precinct saying he fit the description of somebody else. He was an honors student, never got in trouble. They told him if he did not shut the fuck up, they were going to take their gun, stick it up his ass, and pull the trigger. Twelve years old. Then turned around and told him he wouldn’t live to see fifteen years old. A year later, they shot him dead. You tell me. That boy did not deserve to die. His father fought, and I fought right alongside him, till his death. All the empty promises we heard about bringing the cop to justice were nothing but empty promises. The cop who killed my boy stayed on the job. He retired with full benefits. And left the family ruined. And we’re still ruined.
“Andrew Kearse’s life mattered. His life mattered before a Schenectady cop called Mark Weekes killed him by withholding medical attention,” said Kearse’s mother Angelique Kearse. “Andrew’s life still matters and that’s why we won’t rest until Weekes is fired and does jail time. I demand justice for the many families who have been wounded by racist law enforcement by: 1.Re-open all cases of police brutality 2.Prosecute police misconduct 3. Jail killer cops And until we get justice, we must defund NYPD and invest in our communities which desperately need attention and resources. I call upon Mayor de Blasio and City Council to defund NYPD by $3 billion and use that money to build healthier communities. It’s the least our so-called leaders can do for us. #DefundNYPD.”
“How long must our families keep asking for police accountability? Just yesterday, I had to come out again to fight for justice for my son, Mohamed Bah, because the NYPD with the support of Mayor de Blasio is trying to stop an investigation of my complaint to the Civilian Complaint Review Board,” said Hawa Bah. “Imagine that! So, after 9 years of being denied justice for the murder of my son, NYPD is being allowed to contest the smallest measure of accountability we can ask for. That is a real injustice to me and my whole family as we must continue to set aside our grief and keep experiencing the murder of my son all over again in the courts. All of this has got to stop. All of this pain that the families are re-living has got to stop! My heart prays that our communities and supporters of justice who started marching since the murder of George Floyd last year continue to fight alongside us.
Bah continued: “There are mothers like me who have been fighting for justice for 5 years, 10 years, 15 years and even 20 years when you think about Juanita Young who has been fighting for justice for her son, Malcolm Ferguson’s death since 2000. This has got to stop and I keep asking everybody to get involved to control the police before they harm your own families because this experience is damaging to any family. We must keep fighting for justice and killer cops like Edwin Mateo need to be fired by Mayor de Blasio and Commissioner O’ Shea. He needs to be in jail and lose his pension so that his family also feels some of the pain they have thrown my family into. And the NYPD needs to be defunded and that money used to provide the mental health services that they should have provided my son instead of breaking his door and killing him in cold blood. I’m tired, but I don’t want any other family to experience what killer cops did to my beloved son. We have to make sure we save New Yorkers from experiencing the pain and damage that comes from killer cops.”
“One year after the police murder of George Floyd we march on Memorial weekend to highlight all the lives stolen by anti-Black racism,” said Robert Cuffy, NYC-DSA. “We return to the real tradition of Memorial Day, the recognition of Black soldiers lost in the Civil War while remembering the George Floyd and fighting for justice with the families of those lost to NYPD violence.
“Let’s keep the cops out of our neighborhoods. Let’s keep the cops out of schools,” said TS Candi, of Black Trans Nation. “Let’s abolish the criminal justice system. The criminal justice system owes our community Reparations.”
“Parents Supporting Parents NY, Moms United for Black Lives: We march not only in remembrance of George Floyd, but also to honor the many families in New York City whose voices go unheard,” said Tanesha Grant. “We stand with family members demanding accountability for their loved ones, and further demand that the mayor and city council defund the NYPD, because the system has shown itself unable to meet the simple demand at the heart of our movement: stop killings of Black people! So, from the prosecutor to the police officer to district attorney, the whole system must be disrupted. We march today so that one day we will no longer have to bury our loved ones while murderers go home to their families. As a coalition, as a family, as a people, we say defund the police and refund our communities, so that we do not have to keep marching in remembrance of those killed simply because they are Black.